Ancient Mexico: Olmec, Maya and Quetzalcoatl: The Quetzalcoatl Legacy from the Aztec to the Mormon Church

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Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Located in Puebla Valley in Mexico, the city of Cholula was the main worship city for Quetzalcoatl in ancient Mesoamerica. Euro-American Mormons say he is Jesus Christ.

With a Middle Formative era history dating back to 1000-500 B.C., the archaeological record of Cholula indicates that it is the oldest pre-Columbian city continuously occupied in the Americas. Cholula’s snow-capped volcanoes and Great Pyramid lies between the Gulf Coast and Mexico City in what was a highly productive trading zone when the Spaniard Hernán Cortés arrived in 1519.

The Great Pyramid at Cholula Dedicated to Quitzalcoatl

The Aztecs records best document the historical sources for Quetzalcoatl. Quetzalcoatl attributes were related to the wind, sky, fertility, war, maize, Venus, dawn, knowledge, arts and crafts merchants. Like the goddess deity Maat in ancient Egypt, among the Kemet, the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl became a patron god among the Aztec (Nahuatl) cosmological pantheon of gods. Aztec priesthood and learning required seating Quetzalcoatl prominently in ones studies and prayers.

The Great Pyramid (aka Tlachihualtepetl or “artificial mountain”) was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl (aka Kukulcan and Ququmatz, all meaning “feathered serpent” in the various Mayan languages) nearly 2500 years ago. The Great Pyramid’s facades, staircases, patios, and ceremonial platforms were developed overtime by the Aztec civilization of central Mexico around sacred principles. Full restoration and excavation of the pyramid is limited due to the Catholic church that was built by Europeans at the top of the pyramid in 1594. It is now designated a colonial monument.

The Iconographic Depictions of Quetzalcoat by the Aztec

According to many Mesoamericanist scholars, the oldest iconographic depiction of Quetzalcoatl is as a zoomorphic feathered snake or serpent found in the Aztec record at the Olman (Olmec) site of La Venta on Stela 19. The stone relief is said to have been created around 900 B.C. It includes a serpent rising behind a person engaged in ritual.

Iconography of Quetzalcoatl’s attributes were anthropomorhic, with hieroglyphs depictions of the beak like mask symbolism of Ehecatl, the windgod. A Quetzalcoatl temple was also created at the complex of Ciudadela and the hieroglyphic depiction of Quetzalcoatl was included in the Codex Borbonicus. Quetzalcoatl was also depicted in the Codex Magliabechiano.

Quetzalcoatl’s Cosmological Origins

The Great Pyramid is 25 degrees north of west, oriented to the setting sun at the summer solstice. The running spring at its foot is said to represent the passage to the underworld (Mictlan). Mayan and Aztec legend provide that Quetzalcoatl went to the underworld and with Chihuacoatl created fifth-world mankind from the bones of the previous races. Legend provides that by using Quetzalcoatl’s blood from a wound in his penis, he infused the bones with new life.

One accounts provides that Quetzalcoatl’s birth was a twin birth with Xolotl. It is said that it was an unusual birth in that it was a virgin birth from the goddess Coatlicue. Another Aztec story claims that Quetzalcoatl was seduced by Tezcatlipoca into becoming drunk and sleeping with a celibate priestess (in some accounts, his sister Quetzalpetlatl). Out of remorse, it is reported that he subsequently burned himself to death. His heart is said to have become the morning star.

Quetzalcoatl and the North American Mormon Movement

Some Mormon scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl was a white god who came from the sky to earth, but left earth with the promise of returning. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) late president John Taylor wrote:”[t]he story of the life of the Mexican divinity, Quetzalcoatl, closely resembles that of the Savior [Jesus Christ]; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being,” states John Taylor in the book “Mediation and Atonement,” (Grandin Book Co., ed. 1992; oridginal ed. 1882).

The surviving hieroglyphs, or pictorial manuscripts, from Cholula are known as the Borgia codices, having been saved from destruction by Cardinal Borgia. Many of the early written European accounts of the story of the gods, kings, and cosmological characters encountered during their first encounter with Mesoamerica culture, such as the legend of Quetzalcoatl, are now housed at the Vatican Library.

Sources:

  1. Lafaye, Jacques. “Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe: The Formation of Mexican National Consciousness,” 1531-1813. (University of Chicago Press, 1987)
  2. Ringle, William M.; Tomás Gallareta Negrón and George J. Bey. “The Return of Quetzalcoatl. Ancient Mesoamerica” (Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  3. Wirth, Diane E, (2002). “Quetzalcoatl, the Maya maize god and Jesus Christ.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies (Maxwell Institute, 2002).
  4. Wagner, Elizabeth. “Maya Creation Myths and Cosmology,” in Nikolai Grube (ed.). Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. (Cologne: Könemann, 2006).